Parmer Siblings

Children of Samuel M. Parmer and Hetty Eckman: Siblings, below, clockwise from top left: John Jacob Parmer, Luther James Parmer, Samuel Elwood Parmer, Aldus Arthur Parmer, Margaret Alice Parmer Rote, William Eckman Parmer. Siblings not pictured: Martha Parmer (died in childhood 1877), Annie E. Parmer, Harry Allen Parmer.

Aldus–Starting Off Young

An interesting fact shown in the 1940 census is the highest grade of education completed. Aldus is shown as completing 7 grades. Mary completed 8. Of Aldus and Mary’s sons, Ned is shown as completed 8th grade, and James had what looks like 4 years of high school education. Historically, from 1850, only about 60% of youth ages 5-19 years old were enrolled in school until about 1910 when the percentage began to increase (Source for all statistics in this paragraph). Of those enrolled, they were virtually all in elementary school. Until 1910, less than 10 our of every 100 youth aged 17 had completed high school. Even in 1940, only about 25% of the Caucasian population aged 25+ had completed 4 years of high school. Likewise, college admission rates were extremely low. Although the number of enrollments in college began to increase around 1910, enrollment didn’t really take off until about 1950. In 1870, 20% of the population aged 14+ were illiterate, and the percentage remained in the double digits until after 1900.

I share all these statistics because they are really helpful in understanding the differences that existed in our ancestor’s lives. What seems so basic to us today was just not so basic in the past. As a result, we have to look at history from the eyes of those who were living it. Just earning a living to survive was so time consuming then, producing the very basics of food, clothing, and shelter. It helps us to understand why small children were hired out and why teens stopped going to school and were employed full time. Mindsets, family patterns, and life circumstances stick around from generation to generation, which we see in the history of education. Nevertheless, situations change over time. Referring back to the 1940 census, Ned, who was born in 1909, had completed 8 years of education; however, James, who was born in 1911, appears to have completed high school. Just the two years difference in birth likely boosted James’ educational opportunities.

Lancaster School building built in 1892. Former one story school buildings were on both sides of this building. It’s possible that Aldus went to both the one story buildings and this building for his education. Photo from Google Maps. More information about this school, and the history of schools in this area, is found here.

Let’s get back to Aldus, who is shown as completing 7 grades of school. If he started school around 8 or 9 years old, he would have completed his 7 grades at about 15-16 years old. Remember that his mother died in 1897 when Aldus was 16 1/2 years old. It’s likely that he had finished his education and was employed at the time or shortly after. This was common for the time. I have a fifteen year old daughter. She’s still in school and she does not have to worry about working to support herself or her family. Life is different now. For Aldus, it was just the norm. Very likely, his friends had stopped going to school and were getting jobs too. And so the beginning of an adult life began at 16 years old.

What do people do besides work when they are an adult? Getting married is quite common. About two years after his mother died, Aldus married Mary E. Troop. The marriage certificate says Aldus was 21 years old and Mary was 17 years old when they applied for a marriage license on April 25, 1899. If the date is correct, and his birthday is correct, he would have been 18 at the time, not 21. They were married April 29, 1899. In Pennsylvania in 1900, the legal age to marry without consent from a parent was 21, so it’s likely Aldus lied about his age so he wouldn’t have to get consent from his father. Why he felt he had to do that will likely remain a mystery.

Signature on marriage license docket

In June 1900, Aldus and Mary lived with her Parents at 347 North Concord Street. They would have been married less than a year.

347 N Concord St, Lancaster, PA. This home is listed on as being built in 1900. Photo from Google Maps.

The 1900 census indicates that Mary had not given birth to any children. Aldus’s birthday is listed on the census as Nov 1879, although the provider of the family information may have gotten the year incorrect; however, his age is listed as 20, which would mean he was 19 when he married, not 21 or even 18. On the other hand, if he was born in 1880, he would have been 19 years old in June of 1900 as he wouldn’t have had his 20th birthday until November. I’m always amazed at the inconsistency of ages in historical records. I’ve written about that for several of his siblings.

The 1910 Census, taken in April, shows Aldus is 29 years old. This would be consistent with him being born in 1880. It also indicates that he and Mary have been married 11 years, which is also consistent with Aldus being 18 years old at the time of his marriage. Aldus is listed as a Salesman at a seed store. Mary is listed as being the mother of 4 children, 4 of which are still living. This is interesting as I found on Elvin’s birth certificate that he is the fourth child born, with three still living. Elvin was born in 1906. His younger brother, Ned, had been born and was listed in the 1910 census, which means the census record is likely wrong and should indicate 5 children had been born and 4 were still living. Aldus and Mary had six kids. Raymond Earl, Grace, a baby, Elvin, Ned, and James.

Aldus and Mary lived with their family at 509 Green Street, which they were renting, and were living next to Aldus’ brother William and family who lived at and owned 507 Green Street. Eventually, William and his family would move to Florida and Aldus and his family would buy William’s home.

507 Green Street on left and 509 Green Street on right. Map from Google Maps. Home built in 1900.

So what did Aldus do to support his family? That will be the topic of the next post.

Gray-Eyed Aldus Parmer

Aldus made his entry into this world on November 28, 1880. That was a Sunday and just 3 days after Thanksgiving day. He arrived into Samuel and Hetty’s home with 6 living siblings. One sister, Martha, had previously died in 1877 at 3 years of age. The oldest sibling, John Jacob was 13 years old. His mother, Hetty, must have been very busy because her two youngest children at the time were not very old–Annie was not quite three years old and Harry had recently turned one year old. Samuel was five, Margaret was nine, and William was eleven.

A new baby brings lots of joy, and, as every new mother knows, a lot of exhaustion and sleepless nights. I’m sure the children had chores and helped out. Still, cooking and cleaning were a whole lot different then. There were no refrigerators for home use yet–that wouldn’t be for about another 25 years–but the home may have had an icebox. The stove would likely have been a cast iron or steel stove that burned wood or coal (Source). And doing laundry? That was a lot of work. A pail of water, a plunger, and a washboard were the common implements, along with homemade lye soap, which was quite a process to make too (Source).

In 1918, according to the draft registration card, Aldus had black hair and gray eyes. The gray eyes is interesting. I was born with dark brown eyes and had dark brown eyes for many years. Somewhere along the line, my eyes have changed color and are now more hazel. I wonder when Aldus’ eyes became “grey.” He’s also shown as medium height and slender build at registration.

The WWII draft registration card is more specific. Aldus is included in the April 1942 “Old Man’s Registration.” This draft was the Fourth Registration and was for men ages 45-64 who were not already serving in the military. At that time, he was 61 years old, standing 5’5″ tall, weighing in at 190 pounds, and had gray hair and, still, gray eyes. He also has a scar on the end of the index finger on his left hand.

WWII draft registration card. Image from “United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 14 March 2020), Aldws Arthur Parmer, 1942; citing NARA microfilm publication M1936, M1937, M1939, M1951, M1962, M1964, M1986, M2090, and M2097 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

So it appears that Aldus grew up with black hair and gray eyes. Tragically, when he was 16 1/2 years old, his mother died. We don’t have any information regarding her death in 1897. If mothers were as central to their children’s lives then as they are now, I imagine that had a profound affect upon Aldus.

What was life like for Aldus after his mother died? We’ll take a looks at his life in the next few posts.

William and Bessie

Remember William? If you didn’t read my earlier posts about William, you should. I think his life must have been quite interesting, although he likely didn’t think it so special. He married, moved to Florida, became a widower, and moved back to PA. You can read about it all in these three posts:

William’s Beginnings in Lancaster

Orange Groves and a Ghost Town

Cousins and Spouses

After William became a widower, he married his cousin’s widow, Bessie. Here’s a newly found photo of William and Bessie.


Photo courtesy of Ronald Parmer Scott

This photo was likely taken at William’s brother’s, Luther’s, home in Highland Township, Chester County, PA. Notice William holding a croquet mallet and ball. I love seeing little bits of insight into their lives by that little detail. It helps to relate to their lives. I imagine a family gathering much like today–food, games, fun times. The photo is from an album whose photos were taken in 1924-1926. That helps narrow down possible dates for when William and Bessie were married. Notice also that William has his tie tucked into his shirt. He’s wearing the tie like that on another photo at Orange Groves and a Ghost Town. My research found that others during that time period had photos taken with their ties tucked in. Although I couldn’t find a lot of information about tucked in ties during that time period, I did discover that soldiers wore their ties tucked in when they didn’t have a jacket on. I’m happy to have this moment in history preserved and available for us to enjoy.

Samuel, Son of Samuel

Samuel E. Parmer was born August 22, 1874.  That’s what his death certificate says, as well as his headstone.  Some records indicate he may have been born in 1875.  It’s so hard to pinpoint birthdays for that time period!  I’m going with 1874.  His marriage certificate says he was born in Mount Sidney, East Lampeter.

Samuel E. is the fifth child of Samuel M. and Hetty Ann.  His brother John Jacob was 7 years old while his sister Martha was just 10 months old.  William would have been almost 5 and Margie almost 3 years old.  Hetty was a busy mother!

Undoubtedly named after his father, Samuel M., Samuel E’s middle name is Elwood, as shown on his World War I draft registration card, which interestingly lists his birthday as 1873.  In 1918 when the card was completed, he was medium height, medium build, with blue eyes and black hair.


More posts on Samuel E. are coming.  Do you know anything about Samuel E. Parmer?  If so, please share in the comments or the Contact page.  We would really like to get to know him!

A Granddaughter’s Memories, and A Great Granddaughter’s

Who was a messenger, a salesman, a dishwasher, an umbrella factory worker, a taxi driver, a stamp collector, and a veteran of the Great War?

That is Herbert H. Parmer, born June 21 1895 to William Eckman Parmer and Emma J. Howe.

Herbert H Parmer

Herbert H. Parmer.  Photo courtesy of Sarah (Parmer) Constein

The earliest record I could find for Herbert is the 1900 census, which shows him at 4 yrs old with his parents at 29 Dorwart Street.  The current home at that address was built in 1910, so it wouldn’t be the home he lived in.

The 1910 Census taken April 22, 1910, shows him at 14 years old living at 507 Green St., which is the address where his family lived for many years.  He had not attended school during the September 1, 1909 school year, but he was employed and is recorded as not being out of work at all in 1909.  He was working in an umbrella factory.  I can’t make out what his type of work was at the factory.  Can you read it in the image below in the first column?

herbert h job in 1910

A year later, in the 1911 city directory, he was listed as working as a messenger.  He would have been 15 years old.  The directory lists his address, 507 Green St., which is likely where he lived until he married.  It’s interesting to note that at 15 years old, he is listed like an adult in the city directory, along with his 17 and 20 year old brothers and his parents.  What a difference it would be today!

On June 23, 1916, Herbert H. enlisted in the National Guard at the age of 21.  He was in Co K 4 Inf PA National Guard until August 10, 1916.  Then he was in M G [machine gun] Co 4 inf PA National Guard until October 21, 1917, when that company became Co A 109 M G Bn until his discharge.

But first, wedding bells rang.  The 1930 census asks what age you were at your first marriage.  Herbert is shown as 23 at his first marriage and Florence Ruth as 17.  I couldn’t locate a marriage record for them, but they were likely married in 1918 before he left on May 7, 1918 to serve overseas in World War I.   A great granddaughter shares some memories of Florence Ruth Parmer:

I have vague memories of Grandma Parmer. I was named after her. I remember going to her house where she had a cedar chest full of greeting cards. She would allow me to look at the cards if I was very careful! I loved this memory so much that I saved every card I was ever given in MY cedar chest so I could do the same with my grandchildren. Unfortunately I won’t have grandchildren so the cards became a casualty during one of my cross country moves but my son still has the cedar chest which is full of family mementos like pictures and Bob’s and my graduation caps and yearbooks. I do have one of her recipes passed down from Mom. She apparently catered for some fancy dinners for the Watts and Shands (of Watt & Shand fame), among others,  and came up with an hors d’oeuvre consisting of pineapple rings stuffed with cherries and cream cheese on a bed of lettuce. We make it at Easter. Mom says she was very proper and fancy.  (From notes provided by Sarah (Parmer) Constein)

The war ended in 1919, and Herbert returned to the United States in March 1919, being discharged from the military in October 1919.

The 1920 census shows Herbert is married at 24 years old, living with Florence Ruth and son Harry, who was one year old.  He was a novelties salesman. They lived at 647 Chester Ave (might actually be Street), next to her parents and siblings.  He’s still listed as a salesman in the 1927 city directory.

Eventually, his family bought a house.  In the 1930 census, his family is shown at 21 East Liberty Street, where they owned a home valued at $8000.  He was 35 years old and was a taxi driver for “Taxi Cab Co.”  The census record states he is a veteran of the World War.  His family lived at East Liberty Street for several years.  The current home at that address, according to, was built in 1930, so it would be the same home that the family lived in.

21 east liberty

21 East Liberty is the cream colored house on the left.  Photo from

His granddaughter said he suffered from “shell shock”, had TB (possibly from the trenches and gas during the war) and spent time in a sanatorium (From notes provided by Sarah (Parmer) Constein)”.  This is consistent with his filing for veterans compensation in 1934 while living at the VA hospital in Coatesville, PA.  In addition, the 1940 census shows him as an inmate at the Veterans Administration Facility in Chester County at 1400 Blackhorse Hill Road, Caln Township, PA, near Coatesville, where patients were first admitted in 1930, and which was dedicated in 1932.

His granddaughter “said he lived with them in West Willow when she was a kid and she has fond memories of him. She loved him very much.”  She “remembers he used to get his pension check once a month and take them to the West Willow fruit stand to buy them fruit.”  She says one “month he told them he could not take them for fruit and she remembers that night Pappap told them he had died.”  (From notes provided by Sarah (Parmer) Constein)”  Herbert died June 24, 1957 while living at 1938 Willow Street Pike, West Lampeter Township, according to his death certificate.

His granddaughter “credits him with teaching her about edible plants like dandelion, berries, poke, “mustard” and pawpaws. He would take her for long walks in the wood and show her what she could safely eat as well as teach her about other plants like Jack-in-the-Pulpet. (From notes provided by Sarah (Parmer) Constein)”  Also, “He kept an army trunk at the foot of his bed. He would call the kids into his room to sneak Hershey Kisses to them. Nanny (Violet) would holler not to give the kids candy but he would fib that they were playing jacks. He would then throw jacks on the top of the trunk to cover his story! (From notes provided by Sarah (Parmer) Constein)”

jack in the pulpit

Jack-in-the-Pulpit, photo compliments of here.


Cousins and Spouses

Last post, we left off with William as a widower and a farmer.  Emma had passed away in April of 1917.  Just a few months later, William’s cousin died.

Benjamin Franklin Parmer died August 7, 1917 of diabetes at the age of 45.  His death certificate list his parents as Abram Parmer and Lillie Eckman.  Abram was the brother of Samuel, and Lillie was the sister of Hetty.  So two brothers, Abram and Samuel, married two sisters, Hetty and Lillie.  That would make Benjamin Franklin Parmer and William Eckman Parmer first cousins.

Somewhere between 1920 and 1927, William moved back to Pennsylvania.  We know this because William shows up in the 1920 census in Florida as a widower, and he shows up in the Lancaster city directory in 1927:

1927– clerk; home at 38 Washington

The 1930 census shows William as married to a Bessie.  William moved back to Lancaster and married his cousin’s widow, Elizabeth Hepburn Powell Parmer.  They are listed as living at 455 S Shippen on the 1930 census records.

Zillow lists 455 S Shippen as being built in 1888.  If that is the case, the current home at that address would be the same home where William and Bessie lived in 1930.

You can see the home on the google map for 455 S Shippen, Lancaster, PA

In 1932, William passed away.  He died of pneumonia, but also had carcinoma of the liver. His death certificate lists his occupation as caretaker of park.


Photo from


He was 62 years old and, it seems, he must have had a very interesting life, although to him, his life may have been nothing special.  What seemingly typical part of your life might be interesting to your future generations?  And what little details about your forefathers might you be able to share as a piece of the puzzle?

Elizabeth (Bessie) Hepburn Powell Parmer continued to live on Shippen Street.  She died September 3, 1966 after a long illness.

Orange Groves and a Ghost Town


William E. and Emma J. Parmer moved from Lancaster, PA to Florida.  I don’t know when or why, but I do know they moved.  They are listed in the 1910 census with all their kids in Lancaster.  William is in the 1911 city directory.  But he’s not listed in the directory in 1913.  So, it’s likely they moved to Florida between 1911 and 1913.

Cousin Millie says William and Emma and some of their children “at some point moved south and lived in Florida and had orange groves in the Orlando area.”

Tragically, Emma died April 10, 1917 at 45 years old.  She had mitral stenosis, which is when the heart’s mitral valve narrows.  The narrowing results in the valve not opening properly, which in turn causes abnormal blood flow into the pumping chamber of the heart.  The most common cause of mitral stenosis is rheumatic fever, which usually  occurs after a person has a step infection like strep throat.  Rheumatic fever was once very common and was the leading cause of death in children.


Emma J. Howe Parmer’s headstone.   Photo from

In the 1920 census, William is listed as a  farmer in Narcoossee, FL with a post office address.  You might have a hard time finding Narcoossee today.   It’s a ghost town!  A search for Narcoossee, FL led to a a ghost town website with a description of Narcoossee, including photos from the general time period.  You can access the website by clicking  here.

According to the website, Narcoossee was a citrus farming area.  So that goes right a long with cousin Millie’s story.

Now we leave William, a widower and a farmer.


William Eckman Parmer at unknown date.  Photo courtesy of Millie Crawford. 


William’s Beginnings in Lancaster

William was born October 27, 1869, the second child, and second son, of Samuel and Hetty. He is shown with his family in the 1870 and 1880 census. On September 3, 1891, William Eckman Parmer and Emma J. Howe were married by Rev. D.W. Gerhard.  Here’s a photo of William and Emma:


Emma J. and William E. Parmer.  Photo courtesy of Millie Crawford.

Over the next several years, William worked at various jobs until he began working as a clerk at a store.  Here’s what we learn from looking at the city directories:

1892 — laborer at 612 S. Duke

1896 — driver, 31 E King; home at 429 Church — a 6 minute walk from home to work

1897 & 1898 — driver; resides at 339 W Marion

1899 — clerk for W D Sprecher Son & Co; resides at 29 Dorwart

1903, 1905, 1907, 1911 — clerk for Sprecher & Ganss (seed and implement establishment); resides at 507 Green

Over this time, William and Emma had their children–Roy, Guy J., Herbert H., Clarence (Nick), Viola, and Franklin William.

Then, sometime betweeen 1911 and 1913, they moved… Florida!


A Patriotic Family and Blue Eyes


Happy Independence Day!

Having a family connection to an event always makes it more meaningful.  Finding a connection to 1776 can be a bit tricky.  How patriotic were the Parmers?  Tracing back that far is a bit difficult for the Parmer family.  But many Parmer descendants have served in the military and defended freedom.  Samuel M. Parmer’s son, Robert E. Parmer, had six sons serve in World War I.

Robert E at war memorial

Standing from left, Robert Parmer Sr., wife Esther, son Harry, daughters Myrtle and Mary.  Sitting from left, daughter Betty, granddaughter Shirley, daughter Nancy, son Earl, and daughter Gail.  Children not pictured are Elwood, Robert Jr., Charles, Kenneth, Richard, Samuel, and Jerry.  Taken August 20, 1944 at the dedication of the original World War II memorial in Lancaster, PA.

The photo above was published in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal on May 23, 2004 with an article about Lancaster’s World War II memorial.  According to the article, “The memorial was erected to honor those from the Cabbage Hill neighborhood of Lancaster who served during the second world war.  The names of 160 men are inscribed, including nine who were killed.”  Six of Robert Parmer Sr.’s nine sons served in World War II.

In 1863, the Union instituted a draft for men ages 20-45.  John Parmer, the probable father of Samuel M. Parmer, was 46 years old at the time.

Samuel M. Parmer was 24.  He would have been required to register.  Below is what likely is his record of registration, along with his brother, Daniel.

civil war draft registration excerpt

I could not find any record of Samuel serving in the military, nor could I find any record of his children serving in the military.  However, I did find records of several of his sons’ draft registrations.  All Samuel’s sons who registered for the World War I draft did so in the third draft on September 12, 1918.  Those who registered for the World War II draft did so in the fourth registration, also known as the “Old Man’s Draft,” which was not to enlist soldiers but to determine the skills and abilities of men who could support the war effort at home.

Draft registrations are fun to look at because they have valuable family history information that is not usually found elsewhere, like physical characteristics.  Here’s what we learn from Samuel’s sons’ draft registration cards:

John Jacob and William E. were born after the Civil War ended and were past the age of the draft for the World War I.

Samuel E., World War I registration on 9/12/18, blue eyes & black hair 45 years old, lived at 542 Dauphin Street, worked as a watchman at Donovan Co., a garment manufacturer.

Harry, World War I registration on 9/12/1918, blue eyes & dark hair, 39 years old, lived at 439 E Mifflin Street, worked as boiler foreman at Lancaster Iron Works.

Aldus, World War I registration on 9/12/1918, grey eyes & black hair, 37 years old, lived at 507 Green Street, worked as an auto machinist at Queen Motor Co.

World War II registration on April 27, 1942, 5’5″ tall and 61 years old, grey eyes and grey hair, physically identifying characteristic was  a scar on the end of his index finger on his left hand.  He still lived at 507 Green street and was working at Lancaster City Water Works.

Luther, World War I registration on 9/12/1918, blue eyes & dark hair, 33 years old, lived in Coatesville, worked as a boiler maker at Midvale Steel and Ordinance Company.

World War II registration on April 27, 1942,  5’6″ tall and 56 years old, blue eyes and grey hair. Self employed and living on his farm in Londonderry  Township.

It’s interesting that many of the brothers had blue eyes and dark hair.  And they were not very tall.  I love that this information is preserved!  What do you remember that can be shared and preserved?